Back of the Bus (Segregation Story #1) Illustration

Back of the Bus (Segregation)

Back of the Bus
The year is 1935

Reprinted by permission of the author, Dorothy Scalzo, written at age 11 in 1935. No change has been made to this story. The spelling errors have been left in place. It is exactly as it was written over 70 years ago by a little girl in rural Indiana.

Johnny was finally happy. His mother had brought him all the way from Iowa to live near his daddy. They were going to stay here as long as Daddy had to. His daddy stayed at the army camp all day, but came home every evening and played with him. In the daytime, he played with the little boy who lived in the other part of the house. It had been sorta cold to play outside at home, but down here in the south it was nice and warm. He was going to like it here. He hoped his daddy would be here for a long time!

Johnny was sitting on the steps waiting for his mother. She was going to take him down town. He always liked to go to town, cause he liked to ride on the big bus. She came out now and together they walked to the bus stop. Johnny skipped part of the way. He had on his new shoes.

"Give me my nickle, Mommy. I want to put it in the slot."

"These busses might not be like the ones at home, Johnny. You'd better let me put in the money today."

"You could show me how, couldn't you?"

"Not this time."

"But, why?"

"Oh, I guess so. The bus shouldn't be crowded anyway."

"Here comes a bus, Mommy. Is that ours?"


"How'd you know? Did you ask Daddy?"

"No. The land-lady told me."

"Who's the land-lady?"

"Oh, Johnny, just forget it. Let the lady get on first."

The elderly lady climbed into the bus and took a front seat. Not Johnny. After spending an impressive amount of time putting his nickle in the slot, he rushed to the back as usual. Johnny always rode on the back seat. It bounced so much better.

"No, no Johnny. You can't sit in the back seat. Come up here with me."

"But why, Mommy? There's lots of room."

"Johnny, come up here with me."

Johnny reluctantly moved back up toward the front of the bus, and sat with his mother.

"Why can't I? I always do it at home."

"It's different here, Johnny. I forgot to tell you. The white people sit in the front of the bus, and the negroes sit in the back."


"It's a law they have to obey."

"Why is it a law, Mommy?"

"Oh, I don't know, Johnny. It's just the way they believe."

"Don't they like the colored people?"

"Of course they like them, Johnny. They just let the negroes sit together, and the white people together. It's the same way in the shows, restaurants, and everyplace."

"Isn't that silly, Mommy?"

"Look over here, Johnny. See those buildings? That's where they make the cigarettes like Daddy smokes."

"Won't I ever get to sit on the back seat of the bus?"

"Oh, Johnny, I guess you can sit back there when there aren't any negroes on the bus."

"When will that be?"

"I don't know, Johnny."

"I wish Daddy could take us back home right away. I don't like it down here anymore."

Next ... 10 years later ... Welcome Home WWII

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Civil Rights Movement - Segregation in America, Index